After more than 50 years in the television industry, nine of them in Columbia County as the general manager of WFXG-Fox 54, Barry Barth is calling it a day.
Barth, 68, got his start working the switchboard at a station in his hometown of South Bend, Ind., when he was 15. His career has taken him to Buffalo, N.Y., Dayton, Ohio, Miami and Jacksonville, Fla., Hartford, Conn., Spokane, Wash., and Fresno, Calif.
The secret to his success in the Augusta market and elsewhere, he said, is understanding that effective television comes from being part of the community. He embraced his community and found, in turn, that the community embraced him.
As a result, Augusta and Columbia County became more than just the place where he lived.
It became his home.
“My wife Barb and I love Augusta,” he said. “We don’t have family here, but that has meant we have been able to meet so many people here – so many friends. We have no plans to leave.”
What Barth does leave is a station that he feels is better than he found it. He takes particular pride in establishing WFXG’s 10 p.m. newscast and the way the station has adopted and mastered a multi-platform approach to coverage.
The newscast was originally produced in conjunction with WJBF Channel 6, the local ABC affiliate. Barth said that when WJBF and WAGT entered into a joint operating agreement, he began to feel like three was a crowd.
“We decided we needed to control our own destiny,” he said.
The result was a 10 p.m. broadcast that uses anchors at WTOC-TV, a CBS affil-iate in Savannah, Ga., and a staff of reporters based in Augusta.
“It’s a brave new world,” Barth said. “You have to take chances. Savannah was a chance, but that’s what we had to do. We knew we could not build out a news studio.”
Establishing WFXG as a news organization meant more than finding people to present 30 minutes of news once a day, Barth said. The information industry has evolved rapidly and he needed to find people who could manage the pace and technology required for a 24-hour news cycle.
The people producing the newscast needed to be comfortable with tablets, smart phones and the myriad other tools of the trade – and so did he.
“I didn’t want to end my career behind the curve,” he said.
While he considered retiring last year, Barth decided to see the station through its first year producing the 10 p.m. newscast and a change in ownership.
He’s looking forward to being able to travel with his wife, visit his two sons in Philadelphia and New York City more and continuing his work with local organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association and the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce.
“I feel good about how I’m leaving things and I feel like I’m leaving at a good time,” Barth said. “My life will be different, but I’m looking forward to that.
“I know I’ll enjoy watching the Super Bowl and not worrying about the fact that it’s the biggest revenue producer of the year.”